A House panel voted Thursday to let people pull out their guns without fear of winding up in jail - if they believe they are in danger.HB2629 essentially would provide immunity from prosecution for anyoneengaged in "defensive display" of a firearm. That includes telling another person you are armed, showing the weapon and actually holding the gun - as long as it is not pointed directly at another person.
The 5-4 vote came despite questions by several legislators as to whether that language would provide a legal defense for gang members caught waving around their weapons, because they could say they were in fear that others from a rival gang had threatened them.
And Bob Ticer, a lieutenant with the state Department of Public Safety,said he feared this kind of law could escalate a simple dispute into an outright gunbattle.
But Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, sponsor of the measure, dismissed the concerns as unrealistic.
Pearce told members of the House Judiciary Committee that sometimes people get intimidated. He said this measure ensures that they can pull out a gun to show whoever is making the threats that they are armed.
The legislation says the display of a firearm is justified "to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other's use or attempted use of unlawful physical force."
Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff, said he fears the language in the bill easily could apply to a fight between two gangs, where one group is armed and the other pulls out its own guns. He questioned whether the measure could end up "escalating a bad situation into something worse."
Pearce, however, said the immunity would be lost by anyone who points a weapon at someone else or "intentionally provokes" someone. "This would simply protect an honest citizen who is threatened," he said.
The measure goes to the full House.